Whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, or just looking to consume less meat, Charlotte has options.
Despite a pandemic, 2020 has been a big year for plant-based options in Charlotte with the opening of vegan restaurant Oh My Soul and vegetarian-focused Alchemy at C3 Lab. Plant Joy and Dee’s Vegan To-Go are both opening this month.
Vegetarian and vegan dishes aren’t just an afterthought at local restaurants anymore — and options aren’t just limited to a salad or the Impossible Burger.
Vegan dining at home: If you’re not ready to dine out yet, get meals delivered from Nourish, a Charlotte-based all-vegan meal delivery service. Or try cooking vegan yourself with Cooking With Joya’s new e-cookbook of vegan soul food.
If you’re dining out — or picking up takeout — here are 18 Charlotte restaurants to try for vegan and vegetarian dining.
(Note: Due to the ongoing coronavirus, hours and menu items may vary. Call ahead to confirm details.)
These restaurants have a vegan and/or vegetarian menu, so you won’t find any meat here. Many are fully vegan so no animal products whatsoever.
One of the newest addition to the NoDa food scene, Oh My Soul dishes up a fully vegan menu from South African owners Richard and Tallulah Duffin.
What to try: Waka Waka burger, a South African spicy patty with cilantro, chili mayo, tomato, red onion, and topped with avocado and fresh chili. For breakfast, the Big Bro is popular. That’s a scrambled tofu dish on rye bread piled with toppings like cherry tomatoes and baked beans.
Another new kid on the plant-based block, Sanctuary Bistro offers French-inspired vegan dinners, as well as a vegan brunch. The restaurant was founded in Berkeley, California in 2014 by chef Barry Horton and Jennifer Jones-Horton. The Hortons says they relocated to Charlotte relocation to be closer to family and to add to “the growing community of vegan restaurants here.”
Most popular dishes: Tofu Scallopini ($17) is their signature dish. Sanctuary’s crispy oyster mushrooms are also popular ($12).
The restaurant, which used to be known as Luna’s Living Kitchen, offers plant-based, organic dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
What to try: The Fire & Brimstone burger ($12), with chipotle sunflower seed hummus, tomato, onion, guac, sprouts, and their special Fire & Brimstone sauce is consistently popular. The yellow curry bowl ($13) is almost too pretty to eat and tastes as good as it looks. The Lunasagna is back on the menu, by popular demand (my server said one guest was “almost in tears” upon hearing about its return), and is one of the restaurant’s original recipes. The waffle ($9.50), made with sprouted oat and cassava flour and topped with berry compote and cashew crema, is a top-seller at brunch. It’s a new recipe, so if you haven’t tried it yet, give it a shot.
This no-frills restaurant located on Independence Boulevard is unassuming from the outside, but delivers a high-quality vegan menu, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert.
What to try: The cheesesteak hoagie ($11.99) is Bean’s most popular menu item. It comes with house-made seitan and is grilled with peppers, onions, mushrooms, Daiya mozzarella, Vegenaise, shredded lettuce, tomato, and onion. The Cowboy burger ($12.99) is another favorite. It’s made with Seitan bacon, Daiya cheddar cheese, onion rings, pickles, BBQ sauce, and ranch dressing.
If you’re craving Chinese food, head to Ma Ma Wok, which has a deep menu filled with vegan options.
What to try: The curry stew ($12.99) is a bestseller, made with a plant-based chicken substitute, potatoes, carrots, celery lima beans, and tofu. The sweet and sour fish ($16.99) is also popular. It’s made with a fish substitute.
A stop at Cinnaholic will satisfy your sweet tooth with desserts that are completely vegan and fresh-baked. There are 20 flavors of frosting to choose from, and Cinnaholic also has brownies, cookies, and cakes. If you’re a Shark Tank fan, you may have heard about these treats during the brand’s appearance on the show back in 2014. The California-based company has locations in Indian Trail, Concord, and Belmont.
What to try: The Cookie Monster is a bestseller. It’s made with a cream cheese frosting and is topped with cookie dough, chocolate chips, and chocolate sauce.
The vegan cafe describes itself as “soulful” and has plenty of meat replacements for those who want a filling meal that’s still vegan.
What to try: Their ribz and krab cakes are both popular.
Fern serves up artfully crafted dishes in a beautiful atmosphere filled with greenery, reclaimed wood, and natural light.
What to try: Fern’s cauliflower shareables are always popular and come in flavors like sweet Thai chili or buffalo ($10). Other items to try include the avocado lime ($10) toast for brunch or the baba ganoush toast ($10) for lunch. The chimichanga is the most popular dinner entree, earning praise as a “showstopper” from staff. The seitan steak ($19) is another dinnertime favorite.
What to know: All items are vegan unless you choose to add cheese.
This cozy cafe has a pet-friendly patio worth enjoying on a nice day.
What to try: If you want in on the impossible burger craze, order the impossible sliders. They’re served on pineapple buns with caramelized onion and an aioli sauce. The quesadilla is another popular selection.
You’ll find Sun Burger’s food truck parked at Spoke Easy bike shop in Elizabeth from Thursday to Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. searving Jamaican/African fusion vegan cuisine.
What to try: Fan favorites include the Jerk-BBQ jackfruit sliders and the sweet chili Chik’n-fried cauliflower.
Meal delivery service: If you can’t get enough of Sun Burger’s food, they also offer a meal delivery service.
Denise Hairston, a.k.a. Chef Dee, started selling her popular vegan comfort food at Charlotte Regional Farmers Market. She just opened her first brick-and-mortar at 1540 West Blvd., Ste. 100.
What to try: Vegan mac and cheese and vegan fried chix tenders.
Plant Joy (opens November 20)
The new vegan food stall is led by a familiar name in Charlotte’s plant-based community — Julia Simon of Nourish Charlotte, a vegan meal delivery service.
What to try: Like Nourish, Plant Joy’s menu is all about local, organic, and vegan dishes. Highlights include socca (a chickpea crepe), rainbow toast (with bread from Verdant Bread), and the falafel stack (like falafel nachos).
Vegan and vegetarian options
These restaurants aren’t strictly vegan or vegetarian, but they have many options or even a dedicated vegan menu.
Located inside Optimist Hall, Village Juice Co. has breakfast, salads, toasts, and (duh) juices and smoothies. While not all of their menu items are vegan, they can modify the existing menu to suit your preferences.
Most popular dishes: The Southwest grain bowl ($10.95) and the Avo Vegan toast ($9.95) are consistent best-sellers. If you like to color outside the lines, the “build your own” option (starting at $8) lets you craft a bowl or salad that’s exactly to your liking. They also have raw, vegan dessert options, including vegan cheesecake.
Agenda guide: Everything you need to know about Optimist Hall
Dish is known for tasty comfort food, and since Sweet Lew’s BBQ owner Lewis Donald bought the Plaza Midwood staple, visitors will find a few menu additions and a new mural in the back courtyard.
What to try: Donald says the most popular vegetarian entree is the veggie meatloaf ($8.89), which uses lentils as its base. For vegan diners, the jackfruit “pulled porq” sandwich ($7.99) with vegan slaw is another option. There’s also vegan and vegetarian brunch choices, including gluten-free and vegan pancakes.
Nearly everything at Abugida, an Ethiopian restaurant on Central Avenue in Plaza Midwood, can be made for meat-eaters or vegetarians.
What to try: The Yemisir Kik Wat ($8) features their popular split red lentils, cooked in a variety of herbs and spices. It’s a frequently ordered dish among diners both vegan and not. If you’re looking to try a bit of everything, go with the Vegetarian Feast ($12), which gives you a taste of all of their veggie dishes.
The airy South End spot, a joint venture from the teams behind Inizio Pizza and Not Just Coffee, offers vegan and vegetarian options for both breakfast and lunch. They also have a selection of beer and wine, as well as Bloody Marys, sangria, and mimosas.
What to try: For breakfast, the Green Goddess avocado toast ($7.55) is a popular vegan item. For lunch, try the vegan Bahn Mi ($9.95) made out of housemade seitan in a hoisin glaze.
Much different than your typical, late-night pizza joint, Pure Pizza focuses on offering a “farm to fork” pizzeria experience. Pies are made with organic and often locally-sourced ingredients, and they have dedicated vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free menus.
What to try: The most popular vegetarian pizza is the She-Rex, says owner Juli Metcalf Ghazi. It’s a veggie pizza topped with Tega Hills lettuce tossed in a house-made lemon vinaigrette dressing. Vegan dinners should try the Mediterranean pizza with Daiya cheese, or the veggie tuck-n-rolls. They’re similar to a garlic knot, made with Daiya cheese and toppings.
What to know: Pure Pizza has two locations, one in 7th Street Public Market, and one on Central Avenue.
Alchemy opened in late June in South End as the first restaurant for the C3 Lab team. Many of its menu items are intentionally designed for both meat-eaters and vegan/vegetarian diners. Bonus: Mixologist Bob Peters created the cocktail list.
What to try: Seitan over polenta ($24) with scratch-made seitan, grape tomatoes, carrots, Calabrian pepper crema, and argula salad. The dish can also be made for your meat-lover friend with braised short rib ($25).
Resources for vegetarian/vegan diners:
- VeganCLT is a website about “all things vegan” in Charlotte. Here you can find more vegan dining options, including vegan dessert and vegan pizza recommendations. The organization also has an Instagram account.
- The Agenda has a guide to healthy food options in Charlotte. Just because it’s vegan, doesn’t mean it’s healthy (we see you French fries).
- Learn more about vegan cooking from Chef Joya of Cooking with Joya. She’s known as the “Queen of Transitioning Meat Eaters.”